“You guys are going to make me shake,” the reliably self-effacing Michael J. Fox told the audience after a lengthy standing ovation while receiving an honorary Oscar Saturday night at the Motion Picture Academy’s Governors Awards.
Fox was honored alongside songwriter Diane Warren and filmmakers Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poet’s Society) and Euzhan Palcy (Sugar Cane Alley, A Dry White Season) during the starry event that finally seemed to mark Hollywood’s return to normal after years of disruption due to COVID and a 2022 Oscars ceremony tainted by Will Smith attacking Chris Rock.
The tip sheet read like an A-list who’s-who: Cher. Tom Hanks. Robert Downey Jr. Jennifer Lawrence. Jordan Peele. Margot Robbie. Adam Sandler. Olivia Wilde. Cate Blanchett. Viola Davis. Priscilla Presley. Colin Farrell. Jeff Bridges. Jamie Lee Curtis. Keke Palmer. Florence Pugh. J.J. Abrams. Ron Howard. Jessica Chastain.
They were just a fraction of the bold-faced names mingling, sipping Champagne and feasting on beet salad and cod where nary a mention of “The Slap” was heard by this reporter.
Mindy Kaling emceed the evening, lightly roasting some of the lhonorees. “Where was Alex P. Keaton on Jan. 6?,” the Office and Mindy Project alum cracked about Fox’s black-sheep Republican family member from his hit '80s sitcom Family Ties.
Fox’s Doc Hollywood co-star and longtime friend Woody Harrelson introduced the 61-year-old Back to the Future star, who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his tireless advocacy for research into Parkinson’s, a cause for which he has helped raise more than $1 billion since being diagnosed with the disease in 1991.
Just a portion of Michael J. Fox’s powerful speech at the #GovernorsAwards, as he reflected about first disclosing to the public that he was battling Parkinson’s disease. Icon. pic.twitter.com/iXVCOI6E0b
— Kevin Polowy (@djkevlar) November 20, 2022
Warren also received some of the night’s biggest cheers after finally (finally!) taking home an Oscar, presented to her by longtime friend and collaborator Cher. Warren has been nominated for a competitive Academy Award 13 times, but has never won. Her speech was reliably candid. Warren, a regular at Governors Awards past, has never shied away from admitting that she really, really wants to win an Oscar.
Weir, a five-time nominee who is now retired after helming such films as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Master and Commander, Green Card, was feted by his Fearless leading man Jeff Bridges, while the groundbreaking Palcy was celebrated by Viola Davis.
Behind the scenes, the Governors Awards functions as the unofficial kick-off to Oscar season campaigning, as studios and streamers drop hefty sums to secure tables and tickets for their biggest awards contenders. Universal invited The Fabelmans cast members Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Judd Hirsch (director Steven Spielberg was one of the night’s most conspicuous absentees) and She Said co-stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. Paramount had talent from Babylon and Top Gun: Maverick. Kevin Feige, Ryan Coogler and Danai Gurira were in the house for Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Netflix brought Rian Johnson and cast members from Glass Onion, as well as two-time Best Director-winning helmer Alejandro G. Iñárritu (now promoting Bardo) and Blonde star Ana de Armas, among others.
Watching all the power players and Oscar crusaders cross streams is part of the fun of the Governors Awards — and all the attendees have their favorites.
Eddie Redmayne (The Good Nurse), fresh from being blinded by the red-carpet camera flashes (“I’m still not used to those,” he laughed), excitedly talked about the unconventional cinema of Everything Everywhere All at Once, Blonde and Triangle of Sadness. Rian Johnson revealed how much he loved The Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans, and said he was amped to watch Triangle. Iñárritu revealed he has seen little this year besides Holy Spider, but was about to dig in on screeners.
Gabrielle Union, who gives a career-best performance in The Inspection, admitted she was ill-prepared for the politicking that comes with awards campaigns. Todd Field (Tár) explained why hadn’t made a film until now since wrapping 2006’s Little Children (in a nutshell, he was focusing on his family and paying the bills with commercial work).
Elsewhere, a pumped-up Laura Dern rushed to greet Adam Sandler (there for his underrated Netflix sports drama Hustle, an outside but deserving contender), as the man Sandler was conversing with happily informed Dern that he was one of the financiers of her upcoming release The Son (welcome to Hollywood). Jaylyn Hall, the teenage star who plays Emmett Till in the crushing drama Till, couldn’t wait to meet The Sandman, either.
Taron Egerton (last seen in the miniseries Black Bird and a day before he attended Rocketman inspiration Elton John’s final show at Dodger Stadium) conversed with Jennifer Lawrence (Causeway) across their Apple TV+ table in what looked like a scene from any wedding where two strangers sitting together engage in small talk. One Night in Miami playwright-screenwriter Kemp Powers and co-star Aldis Hodge reunited at another table across the room, while Gurira chopped it up with future MCU villain Jonathan Majors (Devotion), who will play Kang in Marvel’s Phase 5.
One of the night’s most sought-after attendees, though, had to be Ke Huy Quan, the former ’80s child star from The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom whose comeback role in the mind-bending Everything Everywhere All At Once could land him a Best Supporting Oscar in March.
Jordan Peele had a long, warm chat with Quan. It has been widely speculated that Peele created the Nope character played by Steven Yeun — a former child star whom Hollywood exploited for cultural stereotyping comedic relief roles before abandoning him as he aged — based on Quan.
Colin Farrell also gushed to us about how much he loved seeing Quan return to the limelight. The Banshees star was standing only a few feet from Brendan Fraser, a comeback kid in his own right for his agonizing drama The Whale, and very likely Farrell’s main Best Actor competition as both shoot for their first Oscar.
Expect those two to share a lot of space in the months to come.